How to Survive Honors 101

     If you are crazy like me, then you decided to apply for and join the Interdisciplinary Honors College at Loyola University Chicago. Your first year in honors will be your hardest, so it’s important to prepare yourself for success.

    The tips I give below are the ones that I had to learn the hard way. My first year, I took 18 credit hours, had a job, and valued the social aspect of college. Even if you’re not in honors, this article is helpful in any reading/writing intensive course.

    Like I said above, Honors 101 is boot camp. They are weeding out the weaker students, so don’t let yourself be one of them. It is broken up into two courses: lecture and discussion. My discussion leader was Professor Whidden (and he is the best, although I have to admit I am biased), so my tips may cater more to students taking him. My tips serve as valuable advice to help you balance honors with your other courses and social life. And you will still walk away with a good grade.

    Honors is broken up into two exams– a midterm and final– and three papers. If I can get through it, so can you. Relax, once boot camp is over, the honors program gives you the opportunity to take fascinating courses that are not available to other students. Class pre-registration is a huge perk too.


Do the readings, but don’t read too closely

    You are going to receive about a million books you are required to read over the course of your semester. You’re not going to have time to do all the readings. Believe me, you’re not. You must learn to skim through. Skim through everything on time, and when you have spare time or when you’re studying, you can go back and read excerpts more closely. Study the excerpts your professors refer to in lecture.

    I advise you to favor some books more than others, so when picking your prompt for each paper, you will be able to distinguish which one will yield the best paper.


Take note of every quotation a professor directs you to or reads aloud

    This may be my most helpful tip, and one that you probably won’t get elsewhere. Professors will refer to many quotations in lecture, whether they read them aloud or describe that particular scene in the book (although most of the time they read from the book). And they’ll always tell you what page number so you can read along with them. WRITE THE PAGE NUMBER DOWN IN YOUR NOTEBOOK. Underline, highlight, or take note of that specific quotation. These quotations are the most likely to be the ID questions on your exams. These are the quotes you want to pay attention to, analyze, and study. Trust me on this; if they’re not brought up in lecture, they likely won’t be used on the exam.


Cater to your discussion leader’s preferences when writing your papers

    Whidden values brevity, 3-4 pages of concise reading. Every word of your paper must serve a purpose, otherwise omit. Other professors want longer papers, 5-7 pages, full of detail and explanation. Some professors want your thesis statement in the first paragraph, others want a longer intro. It’s okay to ask questions about format, and write according to their preferences to a T if you want a higher grade.


Pick your prompt as soon as possible and prepare your thesis early

    Put off writing your paper as long as you’d like, but at least know what you are going to write about and what your central argument will be. Start formulating your thoughts ahead of time.



    Talking to your professor about your papers ahead of time means you get to take each paper in the direction your professor wants. And definitely do everything your professor suggests. He/she is the one grading your paper, so you want them to like it right?


The significance is more important than the quotation

    The exams are set up like this: you are given a list of quotations from all the various works you have studied. You are supposed to identify 5 (unless the exam has been modified since my first year) to write short answers about. You are to identify the work the quotation came from, identify the author, speaker and audience, and then go on to explain the significance of the quotation. That includes the setting, the how and the why, and why the quotation is important to the work as a whole.

    If you forget where the quotation came from, or if you get the author or speaker wrong, don’t stress. The significance is the most important part of your answer. You’ll still get a decent score if you can explain the quotation well, even if you get the identifications wrong. Your professor just wants to know that you read the work and paid attention in class.


Campion is a resource. Use it.

    Campion may be the worst dorm on campus, but you live with every other student in the honors program. Use this to your advantage! Have your roommate or hallmate peer review your paper. Study for the exams with each other, it helps tremendously. Your RA is also an honors student; they can give great advice. They also put on paper review sessions in the main lounge. If you don’t take these opportunities, you’re more likely to dislike or fail honors.


Hopefully you are as proud as I am to be an honors student. Good luck!